A poll of seven majority Muslim nations found people conflicted about the United Nations, on the one hand perceiving it as dominated by the United States and unhelpful in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while on the other supporting a more active U.N. with broader powers.
The WorldPublicOpinion.org poll released Wednesday surveyed the Arab Muslim countries of Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Territories along with Iran, Turkey, Indonesia, Azerbaijan and Muslims in Nigeria.
Respondents in every country besides Azerbaijan felt that the “U.S. basically controls the U.N. and can almost always make the U.N. do what the U.S. wants” as opposed to the view that the U.S. can use its veto to stop the U.N. but cannot control it.
The international body got its lowest ratings in its work to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which highly correlated with perceptions of U.S. control, and the conflict in Darfur.
“I think there are determinants of public opinion in the region regarding the U.N. and the most important factor is the respect, or perceived respect, of U.N. resolutions vis a vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and invasions of Iraq since 1990,” said Dr. Fares Braizat of the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan, which conducted the Jordanian portion of the survey.
At the same time Muslim publics overwhelmingly support a more dynamic, involved United Nations (64 percent on average), distinguishing between a U.N. they feel in principle should be a powerful actor and the existing body they perceive as being controlled by the U.S.
“While many people in Muslim countries express disappointment with the U.N., this actually masks their underlying desire for a U.N. that is robust and powerful,” said Steven Kull, director of WorldPublicOpinion.org.
Egyptians overwhelmingly perceived the U.N. as dominated by the United States, with 68 percent expressing that view, the most negative out of other nations polled. They also thought the effect of a more powerful role for the U.N. would be mainly negative (57%).
Mohamed al-Gendy, managing director of Attitude Market Research, which conducted the survey in Egypt, attributed the negative perspective to the fact that Egyptians like but do not trust the U.S. and do not see the U.N. taking any actions against the world’s only superpower.
“No action is being taken, even in Darfur, even in Afghanistan, Iraq, everywhere,” he told AlArabiya.net. “Just what the U.S. wants to happen.”
Jordanians also held a negative view with 59 percent saying the U.S. controls the international body and 59 percent seeing a more powerful role for the U.N. as mainly negative.
Braizat noted that despite several U.N. resolutions on Arab issues such as Palestinian borders, Israeli settlements, Lebanon and Hezbollah disarmament, none had been implemented.
“There is a perception among Arab and Muslim worlds at large that the U.N. resolutions are not respected and only enforced when against Arabs,” he told AlArabiya.net.
Unhelpful on key conflicts
Vast majorities in Jordan (66%) and the Palestinian Territories (74%) said the U.N. was “not helpful” in working to resolve the conflict, a view shared by majorities in Turkey (59%) and Egypt (53%) as well. It scored little better in its work to resolve the crisis in Darfur, according to the poll.
“There’s a dichotomy in Arab public opinion” explained Braizat. “They don’t see the U.N. as an entity that has the power to enforce or implement its resolutions on an equal basis [but] when the U.N. role is linked to humanitarian intervention it is widely supported.”
Palestinians were the most conflicted about a more active U.N., torn between supporting the use of military force to percent severe human rights violations (78%), defend a country that was attacked (81%), and restore a democratically elected government by force (67%) and opposing it to prevent a country without nuclear weapons from getting them (59%).
A Pew Global Attitudes survey in 2007 and 2006 found similarly low levels of support for the U.N., with majorities in Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian territories expressing a somewhat unfavorable or very unfavorable opinion of the U.N.